WBU alums, former classmates mark milestones at two largest Baptist churches in Plainview
PLAINVIEW – Don Robertson has known since his youth he was meant to be a preacher. Robertson received Jesus as his savior at age eight, joined the church at age nine and was called to preach as a sophomore in high school.
Years later, with some education under his belt, he began the preaching circuit, making several moves before finally settling into the church he's called home. Robertson marked 20 years at College Heights Baptist Church in Plainview in April 2007, a milestone few pastors see at one congregation.
Long before he came as its shepherd, Robertson had been part of the College Heights family. A native of Tucumcari, N.M., he came to Wayland Baptist University as a student in 1964, primarily through contacts with then-president Dr. Roy C. McClung, whom he met at the New Mexico state convention held in his home church.
"He was very eloquent and a role model for me… and he always has been," Robertson noted, adding that two WBU students who led a revival at the church also made an impact. "They really role-modeled for me what my call was about."
While a student at Wayland, Robertson studied under the tutelage of religion division greats such as Dr. J. Ivyloy Bishop and Dr. Fred Howard, both of whom helped mold his ministry and his vision. He joined Bethel Baptist Church, following sweetheart Barbara Miller, who was their pianist. After the couple married in 1966, they joined College Heights.
Upon graduation from Wayland in 1968, the Robertsons left for Fort Worth, where he received a degree from Southwestern Seminary, mentored by Dr. D.L. Lowrie, longtime Lubbock pastor and WBU trustee who was then pastor at North Fort Worth church. The couple then moved to Grady, N.M. for the pastorate there, then to First Baptist in Edmonson in 1978. He had been pastor of Blodgett Street church in Carlsbad, N.M., for six years when the call came from College Heights.
"When the committee came to see me, I remember thinking, 'I can't pastor there because Fred Howard is a member,'" Robertson laughed. "But I learned to think of my Wayland Bible professors as comrades and mentors, fathers of the faith."
Robertson said the decision to return to the church he'd previously attended while a student was not immediate, since he wanted to make sure the move was right. His wife's family lived in Plainview, so that was a plus, and he was familiar with the community and the church. Still, Robertson said he weighed the pros and cons on paper before saying, "I realized it's going to have to be a faith decision anyway."
Since coming in April 1987, he said they've never had an itch to leave or put in a resume elsewhere, and the church has been supportive of the entire family for two decades. Looking back over those years, Robertson said he has no regrets, though not all his personal goals have been met.
"Every ministerial student comes to fine tune their self-laid plans about how they're going to save the world," he laughs. "Bishop used to tell me that pastors are people who have to be satisfied with slow progress. My dreams were probably more grandiose. I would have liked to see the church grow as much as it did our first six years here."
Even so, Robertson said the work at College Heights has been fulfilling and a bit humbling, as he's now traded places with Wayland students sitting in the pews. He's enjoyed the chance to minister to students, cherishing that special relationship he enjoyed while an undergrad at WBU. He sees the work as an investment in those lives, as students come through the church year after year and go on to their own mission field afterward.
Being back in Plainview has given Robertson a new viewpoint on his Wayland experience and he said he now realizes how vital his education was and the role of his pastor during those years. It's made him take a more deliberate interest in the college students who now attend CHBC.
"If I could be a pastor to a student where they could remember me making a contribution to their life and ministry, I would count that a great honor," Robertson said, noting he's kept in touch with many students and has been encouraged about his role in their lives.
When he returned to College Heights as pastor, Wayland was in the midst of tough times financially and administratively. He served on the Board of Trustees for nine years, having a front-row seat as the school changed dramatically in every situation and especially in the outlook for the future.
"We've seen Wayland now become the force that it is, and I think churches can claim some of that as a realized dream," he said. "Schools are really a child of the churches since they provide money, goodwill and student referrals."
As for the future of his pastorate at College Heights, Robertson is ready to see the growth of the church happen as it did years ago, and he's praying for the church to be open to various outreach methods that could make that happen. Still he knows the congregation is in bigger hands than his.
"I want to see College Heights prosper," he said. "It may take me leaving for it to happen, but it'll happen. It's not the pastor's vision; it's the Lord's. If the Lord's not in it, it's not going to happen."
The Robertson children are Stan, Steve, a 1991 WBU graduate, Matt and Alesha.